Stock crossings under scrutiny

By John Cousins

Up to 16 Western Bay dairy farmers could be forced to pay about $75,000 each to build stock underpasses where farms are divided by busy rural roads.

Instead of droving their cows across roads to be milked, a proposed new Western Bay District Council bylaw will require the construction of a stock tunnel under roads that carry about 500 or more vehicles a day.

Farmers will have five years to build underpasses, with each $100,000 tunnel eligible for subsidies totalling $25,000 from the council and the New Zealand Transport Agency.

Federated Farmers Bay of Plenty president Rick Powdrell said he expected the council would receive some kickback from farmers once the list was finalised.

The draft new Livestock Movement Bylaw will replace the council's old stock crossing and stock droving bylaws. It will mean few changes to the existing traffic safety rules for farmers who occasionally drove their stock along rural roads.

There were 40 registered stock crossings in the Western Bay District and the council has opted to give itself more teeth to force farmers to build underpasses along the busier roads.

Farmers will have three months to make submissions on the bylaw, with the council not expected to make a final decision until next February.

A report to yesterday's council meeting said the number of stock crossings had increased in recent years with conversions to dairy farms and the amalgamation of neighbouring properties.

The council's engineering services groups manager Gary Allis said stock droppings at regular dairy cow crossings broke down bitumen. He told the Bay of Plenty Times there were logistical benefits of underpasses for dairy farmers including not having to wash down road crossings after each milking or laying an effluent-proof mat across the road for the herd.

Mr Allis said the council had not assessed all the 16 crossings and there could be three or four where underpasses were impractical or too expensive.

The report to the council said a small number of landowners continued to "negate their responsibilities" to manage stock crossings properly, despite the best efforts of Federated Farmers to apply peer pressure.

Mr Powdrell said that nearly all the district's farmers had registered their crossings and he understood there were about four farmers who were not meeting the effluent conditions of their registration.


- Bay of Plenty Times

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